Durbin, Bustos: Continued funding for prison activation in omnibus appriations bill is more good news for jobs, economic development in Northern Illinois

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (IL-17) today announced that the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2015, which was introduced in the House today, includes continued funding for the activation of the Thomson correctional facility in Thomson, Illinois. The bill must now be voted on in both chambers and signed into law by President Obama.

Though today’s bill does not detail how this funding will be spent, Durbin and Bustos expressed confidence that the funding for the Thomson facility’s activation remains a top priority for the Obama Administration. In June, the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Durbin is a member, approved $58.7 million in funding to continue the activation of Thomson Prison, indicating strong Congressional support for the prison. The Fiscal Year 2015 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill – which was passed on a bipartisan vote – included $43.7 million for equipment and staffing as well as $15 million in funding for modernizations and repairs at the prison in Thomson, Illinois.

“A warden has been appointed and hiring has finally begun at Thomson prison. It looks like the long-awaited activation of this prison will finally become a reality. Today’s spending bill, expected to be voted on later this week, is further proof of both Congress and the Administration’s commitment to opening Thomson Prison as soon as possible,” Durbin said. “This is another significant investment in the economic future of Northern Illinois that will create good-paying jobs and help relieve overcrowding in our prison system. We have made real progress in moving this project forward, I will continue working with Representative Bustos and the entire Illinois Delegation to see it through to the finish.”

“The opening of Thomson prison will be an economic boon for our region of Illinois and help alleviate overcrowding in our nation’s prison system,” Bustos said. “Full activation of this this job-creating facility is on the horizon, and with a vote later this week can be set in motion. I’ll continue to work closely with Senator Durbin and the Federal Bureau of Prisons to ensure that Thomson Prison remains on track to open.”

In March 2014, Durbin and Bustos announced that the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons has committed $53.7 million in funding to the activation of Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois. The funding was approved by Congress in January 2014 as part of the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2014. Of this funding, $10 million is designated for renovation while $43.7 million will be used for staffing and equipment purchases and upgrades. The full activation of Thomson prison is expected to cost $25 million for upgrades and renovations and approximately $170 million for equipment and staffing.

In November 2013, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Charles Samuels, reiterated his intention to fully activate the Thomson facility. Citing the challenges due to overcrowding at high-security Bureau of Prisons facilities that ultimately put staff, inmates and communities at risk, Samuels said the agency desperately needs the beds at Thomson to alleviate the problem.

In July 2013, the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which Durbin is a member, approved funding for the activation of the Thomson correctional facility at the level that was requested by President Obama in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal which was delivered to Congress last April. The President's plan included $166.3 million to begin the activation of Thomson prison and two other prisons, acquire 1,000 private contract beds and to expand a program to reduce recidivism rates. The federal government’s operation of Thomson is expected to provide a major boost to the local economy and create more than 1,100 jobs.

On October 2, 2012, Durbin and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced that the federal government had purchased Thomson Correctional Center for use as a maximum-security federal prison to alleviate overcrowding in the federal prison system. The federal government’s operation of Thomson is expected to provide a major boost to the local economy and create more than 1,100 jobs. Annual operation of the facility is expected to generate more than $122 million in operating expenditures (including salaries), $19 million in labor income, and $61 million in local business sales.

The Thomson facility was built in 2001 by the State of Illinois as a state-of-the-art, maximum-security prison to house the most serious criminal offenders. The bulk of the facility was never occupied, however, and is sitting vacant. The facility was constructed on a 146-acre piece of land and has 1,600 beds with eight compartmentalized units designed for maximum inmate supervision and control. The facility is enclosed by a 12-foot exterior fence and 15-foot interior fence, which includes a dual sided electric stun fence.